Participation in new governance spaces: what makes for a participatory disposition in different contexts? John Lever & Jo Howard University of the West of England with Marilyn Taylor, Chris Miller, Rumen Petrov, Luis Serra, Antoneta Mateeva
Introduction • Global trend towards new opportunities for non-governmental participation • Uneven response to these opportunities • Why do individuals participate, and what are the factors that create a ‘participatory disposition’? • Social movement theory (POS) … contention? • Non-governmental activism more generally - in ‘invited’ as well as informal spaces • Political culture + individual disposition: how do they interact? (Bourdieu & Crossley’s critique)
Research context • ESRC research project in 4 countries • Studying non-governmental participation in “new governance spaces” in Sofia, Managua, Swansea & Birmingham • Mainly ‘invited’ but some ‘popular’ spaces for civic participation • Experience of individuals from 4-6 orgs in each site • Data on national & local context & political culture • Data on orgs & individuals Identify attributes of a participatory disposition?
Habitus: a participatory disposition? • Bourdieu’s theory of practice • Bourdieu, habitus and the public sphere • Bourdieu and crisis! • Crossley’s critique of Bourdieu!
Why do people participate? • Crossley’s radical habitus – a durable disposition to participate? • A disposition to criticise elites • Political know how • An ethos that encourages participation • A feel for protest and organising • + A strong emotional commitment to participation
Bulgarian political culture • History of subjugation • Centralised communist state • Participation through state channels • Post-communist participation in market, not public sphere
Bulgarian NG sector • Soviet mass organisations • Post-soviet NGOs with negative image • Dual nature of putative ‘3rd sector’ • Old NGOs (state funded) • New NGOs (meeting unmet needs, external donor funded) • Lack of belief in potential of sector
A participatory subject? • In Bulgaria, active in the economic not political sphere • Lack of history of collective action • Marketised & subservient political culture • Limited and confused opportunities for NG participation • NGAs have very limited participatory disposition
Nicaraguan political culture • High levels of inequality and poverty (50% population) • Grassroots resistance to dictatorship, overthrow of Somoza • liberation theology, popular education • Sandinista years: mass community organisation & mobilisation • Enduring clientelism & patronage politics • Distortion of political culture by pact between PLC and FSLN
Nicaraguan NG sector • Importance of international donors • Dependency on ‘mother orgs’ (donors, Church, PP …) • NGA in both new governance spaces & collective action on the streets • Political learning and belief in advocacy and democratic participation
The participatory subject • Participatory disposition; experience, awareness and belief in participation – a durable disposition e.g. formation of the Alliance: “This Alliance of Community Organisations was born of the need to find arenas for civic participation and to motivate officials of both the local Managua government and those of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health to allow actions hammered out among the citizens to improve the living conditions of the communities,” • New FSLN participatory structures replace old; challenge to NGAs to transfer their capital into this new field and maintain their autonomy
The UK’s political culture • Strong, centralising government • Welfare state • Re-emergence of poverty & exclusion as issue • 1980s market-driven model of welfare, taken forward by NL government with increasing emphasis on commissioning, performance management & economic regeneration • Also, NL commitment to neighbourhood, democratic & civil renewal in partnership with 3rd sector • opening up of the public sphere
UK third sector • Well-developed & long-standing 3rd sector, with long history of dissent • Traditions of philanthropy & mutualism • 60s & 70s collective action • Increased role for sector in service provision BUT Transfer of responsibility away from the state? • Institutionalisation of sector through Compact & partnership arrangements which become ‘the only game in town’ • Dissenting voices not welcome in ‘collaborative’ mode of governance
Participatory subjects • Belief in NGA role in the public sphere • Belief in the potential of NGA • Invited into governance spaces • Challenge: how to maintain potential as a force for change – working within the system but maintaining their voice and independence?
Conclusions: participatory dispositions Crossley: experience of participation predisposes participation Individual NGAs in each country are participating, but in different ways, with different dispositions • UK – optimistic, pragmatic (lack of alternative spaces) • Bulgaria – pessimistic, cynical • Nicaragua – contentious (is collaboration possible?)